St. Jones with­out war he­roes

The Packet (Clarenville) - - Editorial - Lester Green Where Once They Sailed

For daily in­spi­ra­tion, we all need he­roes. Dur­ing the dark days of the Great War, who would be New­found­land’s hero?

Sea­man Le­an­der Green stood on the bow of the HMS Hil­lary and plunged into the North At­lantic slic­ing its cold wa­ters bring­ing pride to the sailors of the New­found­land Royal Naval Re­serve and peo­ple back home.

Born to Mark and Caro­line (Dodge) Green on April 20, 1891, Le­an­der would be one of six sib­lings to be raised in the tiny fish­ing town of St. Jones With­out. The pic­turesque com­mu­nity can be best de­scribed as a well-pro­tected, three mile fiord that of­fered shel­ter to boats of var­i­ous sizes. Le­an­der grew up in a fish­ing fam­ily and along with his brother, Adam, were soon sail­ing the wa­ters of Trin­ity Bay and the shores of New­found­land.

Le­an­der would etch out a mea­ger liv­ing pur­su­ing the cod fish­ery and seals in the spring.

In March 1912, Le­an­der and his friend Ed­ward John Green jour­neyed to St. John’s search­ing for a berth to the seal hunt at the Front. Baine John­son of­fered them tem­po­rary lodg­ing and a berth to the Gulf, but un­for­tu­nately Baine John­son’s ship never ar­rived from Canada.

Rather than re­turn­ing home, both men joined the New­found­land Royal Naval Re­serve as a means of ob­tain­ing a spring’s in­come.

Le­an­der and Ed­ward John both signed their ap­pli­ca­tion to en­list on March 15, 1912. They spent the next 28 days train­ing aboard the HMS Ca­lypso and their com­pe­tency in han­dling/ dis­charg­ing guns was listed as very good. They both fol­lowed this ser­vice with an­other two years train­ing be­fore the war was de­clared.

On Aug. 2, 1914, the Bri­tish Ad­mi­ralty sum­moned all re­servists to the HMS Ca­lypso for ac­tive ser­vice. By or­ders re­ceived through Royal Procla­ma­tion, Le­an­der and Ed­ward John re­ported to St. John’s. They im­me­di­ately be­gan pre­par­ing for war overseas.

In the early hours of Nov. 6, the SS Fran­co­nia car­ry­ing 305 sailors slipped past the nar­rows with very lit­tle fan­fare. Among them were 33 of our boys from the South­west Arm area, in­clud­ing Le­an­der and Ed­ward John.

Upon their ar­rival they were as­signed to HMS Vivid I, a shore-based train­ing fa­cil­ity at Devon­port, Eng­land. A few weeks later, they both re­ceived or­ders to re­port to the HMS Hil­iary.

It was on the New Years Eve, 1914 that St. Jones With­out’s son be­came a Great War hero. Not that Sea­man Le­an­der Green wanted to be heroic but be­cause he knew that lives were in peril and if no­body stepped for­ward, lives would be lost to the frigid, cold At­lantic.

Twenty-five days af­ter join­ing the Hil­iary, his ship was asked to as­sist a Nor­we­gian freighter, SS Maryetta, that was tak­ing on water.

Ac­cord­ing to some re­ports, the ship was struck by a tor­pedo from a Ger­man U-boat and the HMS Hil­iary took the wounded ves­sel un­der­tow. Other ac­counts sug­gest that the Hil­iary re­leased the Maryetta and gave chase to the sub­ma­rine and ran it down, while oth­ers sug­gest the U-boat es­caped.

When the HMS Hil­iary re­turned to the freighter, it had sprung a se­ri­ous leak and men were al­ready in a sink­ing lifeboat. In or­der for the men to be saved, the Cap­tain asked for a vol­un­teer to jump into the frigid wa­ters and swim car­ry­ing a life­line to the men of the ill-fated lifeboat.

Able Sea­man Green mus­tered up the courage, stepped for­ward and vol­un­teered. He stood on the rail­ings peer­ing down into the cold At­lantic wa­ters with the end of the rope tied around his waist. He plunged into the icy cold wa­ters of the North At­lantic and swam to the lifeboat that was hope­lessly toss­ing on the waves.

The rope was se­cured and crewmem­bers of the Maryetta were trans­ferred to the Hil­iary.

His act of hero­ism saved six men that night but un­for­tu­nately six sailors from the Maryetta and two from the HMS Hil­iary were lost to the sea. To­day, there are liv­ing de­scen­dents of these men that owe mul­ti­tude of grat­i­tude to Able Sea­man Green for his un­selfish act of brav­ery on that cold Jan­uary night.

His son, Everett, re­calls that in his fa­ther’s later years, he would say, “I looked over the side and thought, what the hell am I do­ing out here.”

Sev­eral ar­ti­cles ap­peared in the Evening Tele­gram, the New­found­land Quar­terly and the Cadet dur­ing 1915 that spoke of his hero­ism and in­spi­ra­tion to his fel­low sailors.

On Aug. 13, 1915, the Evening Tele­gram car­ried an ar­ti­cle about this event en­ti­tled “Con­grat­u­la­tions to the Win­ner of Distin­guished Ser­vice Medal”.

In­ter­est­ingly, Le­an­der had writ­ten a let­ter to his sis­ter, Rachael, af­ter this event in which he stated: “I had a good trip this time. The King gave me a medal.” These two sen­tences gives us true in­sight into his mod­est char­ac­ter.

Able Sea­man Le­an­der Green had the dis­tinc­tion of be­com­ing the first dec­o­rated New­found­lan­der from ei­ther armed forces dur­ing the First World War. He also re­ceived a medal from the King of Nor­way for sav­ing the lives of the Nor­we­gian sailors. In­scribed on the re­verse side were the Nor­we­gian words “Adel Daad” which trans­late into English as a “no­ble deed.”

Sea­man Ed­ward John Green must have been burst­ing with pride as he wit­nessed his buddy car­ry­ing out this heroic deed.

The com­mu­nity of St. Jones With­out could for­ever speak proudly of their two sons and the roles they played dur­ing that dread­ful event.

Sea­man Ed­ward John’s en­counter with his near death ex­pe­ri­ence was yet to come on­board the HMS Lau­ren­tic dur­ing its tragic sink­ing in 1917. He was to per­form his heroic in com­fort­ing men in a sink­ing lifeboat.

Le­an­der was trag­i­cally killed on Aug. 30, 1966 in a car ac­ci­dent near Sun­ny­side, along with sev­eral of his fam­ily mem­bers. He is buried at Sun­ny­side.

On Sept.11, 2016 Able Sea­man Le­an­der Green was hon­ored at a Sun­ny­side cer­e­mony. A bust by sculp­tor Chris­ten Cor­bet was un­veiled and is now on dis­play at the town hall in Sun­ny­side. An­other bust was un­veiled at the Cana­dian War Mu­seum, Ot­tawa on April 26, 2016 to hon­our his act of hero­ism in risk­ing his life so that oth­ers may live.


Distin­guished Medals awarded to Able Sea­man Le­an­der Green.


Everett Green and Aaron Green, ad­mire the bust of their fa­ther and great­grand­fa­ther, Able Sea­man Le­an­der Green.

HMS Hi­lary


Able Sea­man Le­an­der Green.

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